Successful software products, open source or commercial, are constantly evolving. Sometimes that’s easy: If you are just adding new tech to an existing software stack, the other pieces stick around and users can just enjoy the new bits. Large scale changes, completely replacing one piece of software with another, on the other hand, are a different matter entirely. New users won’t notice, but existing users need to – eventually – migrate from the soon-to-be-outdated tech to the new one. It’s part of the software author’s task to figure out how to help users with this process.
For the Analytics Platform this is fairly simple: you continue to be able to switch back and forth between the old and new editor for the time being. And, way more importantly, the underlying workflow format does not change. The incentive to switch comes from the productivity (and joy!) of using the new UI as well the fact that, gradually, new functionality (usually new extensions or nodes) will only be available via the new UI. Still, throughout the whole process your old workflows will continue to run just as they always have.
But what about KNIME Server and KNIME Business Hub?
There is a bigger issue here: KNIME Hub really is based on entirely different technology than KNIME Server. If we had decided to make sure that it behaves exactly the same we would have to significantly limit the technology we could use and the progress we could make (simple example: concepts such as central file systems don’t exist the same way in a distributed cloud infrastructure). KNIME Server itself is more than 10 years old. To build something better that provides a solid framework for the next 10+ years we had to start from scratch – and we did.
Quite a bit of the seemingly new functionality has been around for some time already: the KNIME Community Hub (hub.knime.com), where you can share workflows and components and collaborate publicly, is just a “KNIME Business Hub” run by KNIME for the world wide community of KNIME users. In the future, we will add select, pay-as-you-go features for small teams as well. It will then be possible to buy a shared private space to collaborate and execute workflows on dedicated cloud resources. Maybe that’s an attractive solution for some of those batch executor users out there? But that’s besides the point of this post.
Starting with totally new technology underneath the hood meant we had to quickly abandon the idea of making KNIME Hub *features* equivalent to KNIME Server. Instead we focused on making it *functionality* equivalent. This means that you can do the same things, but you may be doing them in a slightly different way. And before the cynics among you ask: KNIME Hub already has more *functionality* than KNIME Server ever had. But that’s not the point of this post either.
The real point is: Given this transition, how do we plan to help migrate existing KNIME Server customers over to KNIME Hub without too much friction. We are obviously trying to help by keeping things as compatible as possible, creating migration scripts and other assistance, but there will be cases where it’s just not a 1:1 switch.
New customers will be able to get KNIME Business Hub directly and help their data science teams collaborate and deploy their results, but for existing KNIME Server customers it’s a bit more nuanced. Since KNIME Hub is the future, we want to focus our work there; this means that we can’t continue to add new features to KNIME Server. While we will continue to support KNIME Server for a few years to come, we hope that by then most of our customers will find the new functionality of KNIME Hub worth the effort of the migration. We expect that many of you will want to switch but have an IT setup where you need to be a bit more careful. We understand how careful you need to be with production systems and that you’ll need to take time to test and trial before rolling this out to everybody else. We plan to make it easy for you: we’ll continue to support KNIME Server and help you set up parallel evaluations of KNIME Hub. Despite that we know a few of you will be happy with the functionality KNIME Server provides for years to come – in those cases, please talk to us and we will find a solution.
What we promise not to do: force customers to migrate from KNIME Server to KNIME Hub and at the same time force them to accept a significantly higher price tag for extra functionality they do not need.
I am personally happy (and also quite a bit relieved!) that we can finally focus on building cool new features on new technology. After building KNIME Hub from scratch and redesigning the front-end of the Analytics Platform while keeping workflows backwards compatible, we are now on an exciting, new journey!
Any questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly.